The Sword as a symbol of masculinity and masturbation

“I am Adam, Prince of Eternia, defender of the secrets of castle Greyskull. Fabulous secret powers were revelled to me, the day I held aloft my magic sword and said….


Wait what? Ok as a kid as Adam would raise his sword and shout “By the power of Greyskull” and transform into He-man my heart would beat. This was the bit in the show I loved, the part I always waited for. It was only later with comments on the internet that I came across the idea of what this introduction could be read as. Secret powers reviled when I held aloft my magic sword. Could this really be a metaphor for the discovery of masturbation? The time when a boy becomes a (He) man.
As I mentioned in a previous post many of my heroes have been sword welders. Robin Hood, Angel, Ducan McLoad, the Highlander. Well let’s face it that whole series revolves around swords. Thundercats was another cartoon where a sword was pivotal. Young Lion O goes from a boy to a man, the leader of the Thundercats and at the same time is entrusted with the sword of Omens. Almost a small dagger until Lion O takes it in his hands and with a cry of Thunder, thunder thunder, thundercats HO it grows longer until finally shooting a symbol of light into the air.

lion o
Even in real life the sword has usually been a sign of manhood. Warriors would grow up learning how to weld the weapon until being old enough to go into battle. The sword becomes an extension of oneself, a part of the body.
But there have been women sword welders. He-man himself had his twin sister She-Ra. A female version of the character, to sell the toys to girls as well as boys, to give a role model to girls as well as boys. But the problem with this that while She-Ra, princess of power, was a six foot slim blond goddess she was just as strong as her brother. She worked as a role model showing girls that they could be just as strong as boys but looking back it just feels like they were adding masculinity to the character. That her powers lay in being really strong just like a (He) man. Still it’s worth mentioning that on recently re-watches just how camp He-man was and by comparison She-Ra was much much more. Is there a word for something that is more campier then camp? I don’t want to use the word worse because it implies that this was a bad thing but I think overall it certainly works as a early introduction to LGTB themes. After all the hero does ride around on a flying unicorn that has multi coloured wings.

And if that didn’t then let’s move to the nineties and the almost She-Ra like Xena, warrior Princess. Really all these princesses becoming warriors? A symbolism of girls becoming women? Or that women can be just as powerful as men. Xena not only showed a female warrior out fighting for justice but showed a friendship with her young companion Gabrielle that many interpreted as lesbian. Lucy Lawless herself became a gay icon and it had been said since that the character was gay.

But I’m veering off topic here. Let’s get back to our phallic shaped swords. You know the weapons that are used to penetrate people. Certainly to Freud the symbolism of a sword in a dream was phallic in nature and therefore a sex symbol. Traditional I would say that a toy sword would more likely have been aimed towards boys than girls. It represented a sign of manhood. Spilt blood or spilt seed.
Growing up I played a game called Hero Quest and then moved on to the more advanced Warhammer Quest. In both these games the figures were male. Ok two of them were of different races but still male. Warhammer Quest even had extra character packs you could buy. Imperial Noble, Pit Fighter, Witch Hunter and so forth. In fact nine extra characters bringing the total to thirteen and not one of them a woman. Yes there were a few female characters in the overall Warhammer range that could be brought to represent some of the characters in the game but it still says something that there was no actual female figure included in the game. Is this because it was thought only guys played the game? While I’ve never played D & D I know some women that play and at least that game is set up so you can create any gender character you wish. I do however play D & D Neverwinter where my character is female.

So maybe the sword is still a symbol of power, of coming of age but maybe it is no longer a masculine symbol. Or maybe even though we have these sword welding heroines, She-Ra, Xena, Wonder Woman, there is still something masculine attached. That is that they are seen as sex symbols. Strong Women yeah but women that can be fantasied over by men. Recently She-Ra was redesigned for a new cartoon on Netflix, aimed at a young audience but there was outrage at the change. That the new costume no longer made She-Ra look sexy. In other words they can’t longer masturbate over Maybe the concern should be more on whether the character is going to be any good. That she will be a good role model. And that maybe we can have a female hero that welds a sword without it having to represent some masturbatory fantasy.

He-Man as a role model


Several years ago during one of my finding myself phases I wrote a piece detailing a number of heroes that I liked to identify with. Not just simply people that I would like to be because they were cool or could get the women but those role models that had had some influence on my life and the way I now acted. In a way guides where in some situations I could ask myself what would so and so do. On that list at the time were six fictional heroes and one real life person.

The very first one on the list and indeed in my life was He-man. Here I’m talking about the original cartoon series that was shown on Children’s ITV during my childhood. I was big fan of the show. I had the sword. The best Christmas I can remember is the one where I had loads of He-man toys from various relatives and Santa himself brought me Castle Greyskull with I spent Christmas morning with my dad putting it together. Just let me wipe away this tear forming in my eye.
That’s better. Now the reason I loved this show was not only because of the action and the colourful characters. And by colourful I mean colourful as most of the characters (and figures) came in a wide range of colours. Merman was purple, Beast Man orange etc etc. Skeleton was a fantastic baddie. There was plenty of humour with the way he treated his minions and how he reacted to his constant failures. On the heroes side we had comedy with the lovable Orko especially when Man at arms was at the receiving end of one of his backfiring tricks.
No the main reason why I still loved the show later in life (getting hold of the dvds to rewatch it) is because of the positive messages that came with the show. Usually those lessons were highlighted by a small fourth wall scene at the end of each episode. Yes some of them were very basic messages like not going off with strangers and don’t play with sharp objects. But the better messages were about being a better person. Respect for others despite their beliefs, appearance or any other differences. About being morally right. Taking responsibility and not giving up and losing confidence. A full list of all the moral messages presented at the end of the episode can be found here.
That was the good thing about He-man. He was the strongest man in the universe but really it was the fact that he always did the right thing and always tried to look for the peaceful solution. He didn’t kill or hurt people and would often rely on his intellect more than his strength to win the day. The only things he ever punched was objects and robots. His sword was never used against anyone either. He would go out of his way to rescue the bad guys when their plans got them into trouble. It was the most basic set of right and wrong with no really grey areas. In fact even when he once thought that he had accidently killed someone as He-man he gave up his power feeling he no longer had the right to be He-man. Maybe in the real world it would be hard for someone to be as ‘right’ as He-man but for a child just growing up I feel that this basic message of right and wrong gives a good working basis for someone to develop their own morals from. Here was someone who would never cross the line between good and bad. Even She-Ra his twin sister followed the same values fighting alongside a rebel alliance against the evil ruler Hordak.

he-man-banner    For me then personally He-man represents my most basic values. My faith in right and wrong. He is the guide I would turn to if I had a moral dilemma. He also shows me that using my mind more than my physical strength is often better and to try and be none violent. When I was creating my own personal deck of Tarot cards he was also the character I was going to use for strength but not just because of his physical strength but his strength of character. He is also the one who is the strongest connection to the innocence of my childhood. Yes the cartoon looks very dated and simple now but I still have a soft spot for it. Until next time bye.